A man wants to get in touch with a US senator. He goes to a well-connected Washington lobbyist. “I need a meeting with the senator,” he says.
“I can get you a connected with the senator” replies the lobbyist. “The charge will be ten thousand dollars.”
“Ten thousand dollars?” the man sputters. “That’s outrageous! I’m not going to pay you ten thousand dollars just to make one phone call!”
“Fair enough” says the lobbyist. He tosses the man a phone book. “Knock yourself out.”
The 300-ton machine is broken. As a result, the boss’s factory is at a standstill. The boss’s employees are idle, powerless to do any work. Trucks are backed up to deliver the raw materials that the machine usually processes.
No one has been able to fix the enormous machine. Engineers and experts have failed. Consultants from nearby states have not been successful.
A short man arrives at the factory and stares at the machine. He considers the unmoving conveyor belt, he sees the spewing sparks and flames, he hears the grinding of the gears. After two minutes of observation, the man takes a screwdriver from his overalls, opens a panel on the machine, and turns one screw.
The noise instantly abates, the flames disappear, the machine immediately functions properly.
The man hands the boss a bill. For ten thousand dollars.
The boss is furious. “Ten thousand dollars?” the boss exclaims. “That’s outrageous! I don’t want to pay you ten thousand dollars! All you did was turn one screw!”
“I only charged you five dollars for turning the screw” the man explains. “The rest of the money was for knowing which screw to turn.”
A man is in terrible pain. He feels like the Roman Legions are marching through his head, like lightening is attacking his mouth. The man is in agony so extreme he can hardly speak. The man goes to the dentist.
After a brief examination, the dentist says, “I have seen this before. I know just what to do. I can take you pain away.”
“Thank goodness!” says the man. “I feel like my mouth is exploding in flames!”
“I will charge you ten thousand dollars. It will take me 20 minutes” says the dentist.
“Ten thousand dollars?” the man shouts. “That’s despicable! I’m not going to pay you ten thousand dollars for an operation that will take 20 minutes!”
“You know what, you’re right” the dentist replies. “Ten thousand dollars is too much money for twenty minutes of work. I’ve changed my mind. I’ll charge you eight hundred dollars.”
“That’s better” the man says.
The dentist continues. “The procedure will take three hours.”
Politicians and sports star earn as much as $250,000 for a one-hour talk. A presenter might use ten thousand words in 60 minutes. Simple arithmetic suggests the speaker is earning about $25 per word. A teacher with a master’s degree and two decades of experience in the classroom earns $25 an hour.
Your value as a parent is whatever you allow it to be.
Parents assume both rolls, the under-compensated teacher and the pricey speaker. If you select carefully, your insights are worth $25 per word. Whereas if you repeat the same unhelpful tripe, your children will quickly come to understand that there is no reason to listen to you at all. Each of the experts described above is able to solve the problem. That’s why they get ten thousand dollars. If the man with the screwdriver had said, “yeah, we got a real problem here, reminds me of the time I was working on an assembly line myself, must’ve been in ’94, no, I think it was ’95. Anyway what you shoulda done here is to keep the floor cleaned. I’m thinking maybe dust and grit is what caused this here machine to stop working” he’s not worth anything. His diatribe reminds me of parents who blather on, “Now we’ve been over this before! A clean room is like a clean mind, so what you need to do is put away that computer game and start dusting under your bed.” Whereas a parent who can solve the problem—by making cleaning up a fun game involving a parent, a child, and some silliness—is worth everything.
With our beloved children, it is our sacred responsibility to connect them to the right people, to show them how to get the machine running, to take the pain away, to teach them how to solve the problem. Except of course that a loving parent saying and doing the right thing over time is worth infinitely more than ten thousand dollars.